Political Science and Government

US involvement in Latin American affairs during the Cold War period was extraordinarily deep and, according to most scholars, generally malicious. Successive administrations in Washington involved themselves in the domestic affairs of every Latin American state, attempting either to strengthen cooperative governments or to weaken ones that demonstrated geopolitical independence. While repeated interventions, in themselves, suggest that the US government may not have used its power responsibly, the greater problem is that fears about political reliability consistently trumped concerns about democracy, human rights, and economic development. These fears led policymakers in Washington to embrace a long list of brutal dictators and to engage in covert backing for insurgent groups and military cabals dedicated to overthrowing established governments. There are exceptions to this unpleasant history, but periods of genuine respect in Washington for Latin American independence were few and far between. Many scholars have suggested that Cold War concerns about the spread of communism in the region alone drove US policy, especially in the wake of Cuba’s alignment with the Soviet Union. Others have argued that, while Cuba was deeply troubling, the United States operated simply as a traditional imperial state, attempting to ensure it retained political and economic control over its weaker neighbors. A number of scholars have explored responses to US influence to explain how Latin Americans negotiated with, mitigated the influence of, or even manipulated Washington’s power. This idea is often expanded beyond discussions of US political, military, or economic engagement to focus on cultural penetration and to explain that the importation of items such as films, music, and even cartoons operated alongside other types of imperialism. These last types of studies, which look more intently at Latin American societies than at US government decision-making, are just one piece of the scholarship on the Cold War in Latin America. Because of the importance of the Cold War in Latin America and its impact on the totality of political, economic, social, and cultural developments, it may be possible to argue that essentially any book written about Latin America from the end of World War II to the late 1980s might be considered Cold War history. Because exploring the totality of that literature is not possible or practical in one essay, this bibliography will focus on the substantial scholarship that explores concrete US efforts to fight the Cold War in the region, and the responses to those efforts. It will consider works specifically part of the subfield of US–Latin American relations, which is part of the larger history of US international history. Said differently, if only for practical purposes, this bibliography will try to draw a distinction between scholarship on the internal Cold War in Latin America and scholarship on US–Latin American relations during the Cold War period.

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{p. 230} was never any doubt about its ability to oust Saddam if itso chose. The United States had not only won the long Cold War, it hadalso enjoyed a remarkable run of military successes after 1989: defeatingIraq handily in 1991, halting the Balkan bloodletting in 1995, and beatingSerbia in 1999. The rapid ouster of the Taliban in the immediate aftermathof 9/11 reinforced an image of military invincibility and made it harderfor skeptics on Iraq to convince others that going to war was unecessaryand unwise. Americans were also shocked and alarmed by 9/11, and many oftheir leaders were convinced that the United States could not allow evenremote dangers to grow in an era when terrorists might acquire WMD. Thosewho favored war believed that toppling Saddam would convince other roguestates that America was simply too powerful to oppose and compel theseregimes to conform to U.S. wishes instead. In the period before the war,in short, the United States was simultaneously powerful, confident of itsmilitary prowess, and deeply worried about its own security - a dangerouscombination.2

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That this Pax Americana is a U.S. neoimperialism has become clearer again after 9/11 and more especially, in the wake of the troubled, and troubling, U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein and occupation of . Is the United States really, in the last analysis, another imperial power? While some realists suggest that the problems and behaviors of all Great Powers are essentially similar, it is important to notice consequential differences. As Frantz Fanon once observed, it was always important to European colonizers to stay different from the colonized, to maintain an imagined superiority of race and civilization, and to imagine that their true society and history was that of their European homeland, even when they lived their whole lives in Africa or . The European ideology of the civilizing mission created an illusion of the cultural superiority of civilized Europeans over allegedly backward natives. In the era of the United Nations, a far different ideology developed and was instituted. In this ideology, all nations are formally equal, free, territorial, and sovereign, and every nation-state becomes a melting pot, rather than the essentialist homeland of any particular racial or ethnic group. Economists and economic modeling, not historians and cultural education, are thought to be vital to the explanation and eradication of poverty and inequality.

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